From ArticleWorld

A medication is a drug that has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration or any other country’s regulatory agency that is used for the purpose of treating or curing illness, reduce symptoms, manage disease or prevent disease. Worldwide, thousands of different medications exist for a wide variety of conditions.


Some medications are considered over-the-counter and can be purchased at a pharmacy or any retail store. They are considered over-the-counter because the regulatory agency has felt that the safety profile and effectiveness are such that the risk to patients taking them without a doctor’s or pharmacist’s advice is small. Sometimes a medication changes from being a prescription medication to becoming an over-the-counter medication and is often sold at lower than prescription strength.

On occasion, a medication is dropped from the over-the-counter market and is allowed only as a prescription medication. In the U.S., quinine tablets followed this path. There is sometimes great variability between countries as to what is allowed to be sold without a prescription. In North America, there is a wide disparity between drugs available over-the counter in the U.S. and those allowed the classification in Mexico.

Prescription-only medications require the approval of a physician and a prescription before it can be purchased. In the U.S., antibiotics, psychiatric medications, chemotherapy and multiple other types of medication are only available by prescription. In the U.S., “scheduled drugs” are those that carry a risk of addiction and can only be prescribed by doctors or nurse practitioners with a DEA license. In the U.K. and in other parts of Europe, some prescription medication can only be dispensed in registered pharmacies with registered pharmacists dispensing them.

Branded medication

When drug companies first develop a new drug, it is allowed to be marketed only by that company as a “branded drug” with a specific, single brand name. This allows the makers of the company to recover some of the costs of making the drug by having the solo rights to sell it. In the U.S., a drug can be branded for only seven years, after which any other company who wants to market the same drug can do so under a different brand name or can sell the product under its chemical (or generic) name.

Often, generic products are considerably cheaper than their branded equivalents. The risk of generic medication is, that if the medication is made by a company with poor purity standards, there can be a larger than acceptable variation between the drug content of the branded product and the generic product. This risk, however, is not a common one.